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Notes and Queries

The Newsletter of the GA Independent Schools Special Interest Group

Winter 2017

Happy New Year!

Welcome back to school and to 2017. As ever, this year will provide challenges for all Geography
teachers as many of you are teaching both legacy and new courses in both GCSE and A level courses.
For the GA and ISSIG to support you adequately in the teaching of new courses, you will have
received a request for information about the courses you are teaching, your GA membership status
and the topics that you feel where most support is needed to enable you to teach your exam specs.
Around 200 schools and colleges have responded to my request, but there are still over 200 more
who havent responded yet. I make no apology for bombarding you with requests, the information is
very useful and will enable the committee to commission articles for this and other publications,
provide speakers for conference and enable publishers to provide materials to help you teach.
Publishers have long known that the independent sector buy more textbooks and other resources
per pupil than any other sector and this information will be valuable in providing targeted resources.
The results of this survey will be published in the Aprils edition of Notes and Queries.
Thank you also to all those schools who responded to my request about exam results. Again, the
information gathered here proved invaluable for both ISSIG and the GAs Education Committee. A
summary of the information can be found on page 12.
In this edition of Notes & Queries, Alan Parkinson writes about Technology and A Level Geography
- a topic he wrote about in this publication a couple of years ago. GA CEO Alan Kinder explains the
GAs contribution to a government consultation about Schools that work for everyone and how
independent schools already benefit the wider Geographical community. IAPS Geography adviser
Paul Baker has written an article for Prep and Junior Schools that looks at the skills that they need
to teach to equip their pupils for Geography at Senior schools, while Alice Mollison gives useful
advice about Fieldwork in the Azores.
There is also information about the GAs Annual Conference to be held at Surrey University in April,
various ISSIG activities such as regional conferences in June and a review of the ISSIG trip in Umbria
in the Autumn.
The ISSIG committee met at the RGS in December and we were pleased to welcome Alex Boulton
(Canford), Alice Mollison (JAGS), Riccardo de Rosa (Repton) and James Riley (The Perse) on to the
committee. David Payne, having moved to Jersey has retired from the committee and will be replaced
by Janet Neil from Redlands High School in Bristol. We look forward to working with her given her
experience of the GAs SGQM and Centre of Excellence awards.
Please click on the blue hyperlinks in this newsletter to take you to various websites.
Our best wishes for this term and we hope to see as many of you as possible at the Annual
Conference in Guildford in April.

Technology and A level Geography an update

In the Spring 2015 edition of Notes and Queries Alan Parkinson wrote an article
on preparing to teach the new specifications, and how technology could help
with these preparations. Now that we are a term and a bit into teaching the
new specifications, this article serves as a reminder of some useful tools, and
mentions a few new ones that have appeared in the last two years. Some of
them also found their way into the AQA A level textbook that Alan edited and
co-wrote for Cambridge University Press.
All A level Geography specifications require a great deal from both the
students who are preparing for the associated examinations, and
teachers, who are planning engaging and topical lessons. They are also
facing the challenge (and opportunity) of teaching some new topics,
including Global Governance and Changing Places. This article provides
some of the tools and websites that Ive recently used, or shared over
on my Living Geography blog and various Twitter feeds.
Alan Parkinson teaches
Geography at Kings Ely, and
also works as a freelance
author and consultant. Current
and recent projects include
work with EU projects (I-USE,
GI Learner and
GeoCapabilities), CILT, Google
Expeditions and Costa Coffee.
He was the editor and coauthor of the Cambridge
University Press textbook for
AQA A level Geography,
published in 2016, and
authored A level resources for
the Tutor2U Geography
resource packs.
Twitter: @GeoBlogs

Reading for an A level

We talk about students reading for a degree, and it is a good idea for
them to get into the habit of reading around their subjects. Suggested
readings can be placed on a departmental blog which students have
access to. A QR code linking to the address could be sent to students
or stuck into folders. If this QR code links to an online location, the
reading can be changed from week to week perhaps you can suggest a
weekly article or extract from a relevant textbook that students should
I produced a GeoLibrary blog, which features 365 books for
Geographers Many of these
connect with themes explored in the new A levels. Share the books that
you are reading with students, perhaps by sharing a picture of the front
cover of relevant books.
Author Robert MacFarlane has said that an hour spent reading is an
hour spent learning to write. Once students have finished their reading,
they should be encouraged to write for an audience.
Students could also set up their own blog. or are appropriate (and free) blogging tools to facilitate this
process. I use QR Stuff to produce QR codes ( )
Why not involve students eventually, by promoting them to
administrator status for a week at a time as a guest editor, or by
contributing a guest post on a relevant topic. We have access for
students to produce personal blogs on our schools Firefly VLE. It may
be worth exploring the options for your own schools VLE, or use an
external platform.

Digital Mapping options

The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in the ease of access to data visualisations and
Digimap for

Digimap for
ArcGIS Online

Streaming OS mapping at all scales, along with a range of new annotation tools, and an ability to create maps as PDF
Since 2015, full aerial photography for the whole country is also available, as well as other tools.
FE version of DfS includes free resources
A range of free maps and further options for subscribers. This has also been added to since 2015, with a whole
range of templates and web apps: Try creating some StoryMaps too, for key ideas:

From 70-150
(excl. VAT)

Free to JISC
100 / year
StoryMaps are free
to create, but you
will need an account
to save them for
longer than 3

Luminocity and
DataShine and allow for the analysis of 2011 UK Census Data explore
issues related to demographics, employment and housing patterns.

Bing Maps

Switch to an OS layer using the Road drop-down menu.

This includes a range of new visualisations to encourage exploration of this city, which features on most
specifications in some way:
For KS3, there is also a London Curriculum which can be downloaded by London schools (a sample is available
linked to Green London):



Using data from the Consumer Data Research Centre. Use the drop downs to change the data being mapped this
could be from the major industry in a city, to the age of housing:
Perfect for comparing regions of cities, or urban/rural comparisons - hover over a circle to see more
Produced by the Rivers Trust:


Global Migration
Flood Risk


Students should be introduced to research that is relevant to their studies, and this is particularly
relevant for those who plan go on to undergraduate studies. They should be able to give their
opinions on it, or even develop their own small-scale research suggestion. Some students at A
level will also be completing an Extended Project qualification (or EPQ). My daughter is currently
finishing off an EPQ on the way that childrens drawing develops as they get older, but there are
options for choosing geographical topics for this work.
Here are a few research-based projects to introduce students to:
Spatial inequality in cities: - a focus on Cambridge, and one
of the most cosmopolitan streets in the country
Follow the Things: - an Exeter University project exploring
consumption and globalisation which connects with the work of Fashion Revolution with its social justice agenda
Gapminder: - perfect for exploring inequalities on a global scale
(recently updated with the new Dollar Street resource which explores global differences through images.
TED talks students should be guided towards relevant talks, which can all be viewed
online or via a tablet app - - there are almost 2000 talks to
browse, including a recent one on Inequality by Danny Dorling, featuring Ben Hennig maps:
Sense of Place an area that has to be considered with the new specifications. Hull is
the UKs City of Culture for 2017 , and events to mark this

started on the 1st of January. The organisation ARC, in association with University of Hull
Geography lecturer Dr. David Atkinson, has been exploring sense of place and the idea of
Hullness: and there is a very useful report on the
idea of sense of place and writing about place that can be downloaded for free.
It would be interesting to compare the progress that is made in Hull this year with the progress
made in previous cities that have held the same title, such as Liverpool.
Students may also wish to see the way that The Sun reported on the first night of celebrations:
Getting yourself organised
There is a wealth of information available to A level students, and they need to be organised. I
use a range of social media tools to curate and sort useful resources for later use.
Pinterest: a visual bookmarking tool. Download a browser extension, and any image on a
website can be quickly added to a pin board and shared with others in various ways.
( I have a pin board for all my main topics
Pearltrees and ScoopIt similar tools for collating and storing web materials, and organising
them visually. ( and )
Flipboard allows for the production of online magazines, which can be shared with others, or
produced collaboratively, and then read in a similar way to reading a physical magazine if using a
Most of the tools mentioned in this article will also work on a smartphone or
tablet. The number of apps grows by the week, but a useful list with some
reviews is available on the GAs ICT Special Interest Group blog collated by
Andy Knill.
Twitter can be used as a method of
communicating with students and with experts, as
well as curating a personalised news feed. I tend
to follow and unfollow relevant accounts when
teaching particular topics, and direct questions to
people who are on location. Ive taken part in a
Skype Classroom link-up. Students can be asked
to prepare questions in advance of these talks.
Weve also been able to ask authors questions
about books theyve written.
A level studies involve students in more detailed
and critical analysis of topics, so the chance to
connect with experts should be explored where
possible. Some of my recent work has involved an
exploration of what can be called powerful
knowledge. With social media, those who have
created this knowledge can be contacted.

Some useful Twitter accounts for A level students to follow are listed in the following table:
Twitter account

Who is it?
Map Action


New Zealand
Civil Defence


John Bird Polar

scientist also
try @BAS_News
21st Century
Challenges from
the @RGS_IBG





GA Independent
Schools SIG
Richard Bustin


@Jamie_Woodward Professor of

What do they tweet about?

International disaster mapping charity that maps
priority needs in a humanitarian emergency.
Connections with A level hazards.
Advice for residents of New Zealand, which
connects with ideas of natural hazards and
Focuses on atmospheric science, and writer of - Cold
Discussion on environmental, societal & economic
challenges from the Royal Geographical Society
(with IBG)
Information, news and resources. Also find out
about GA CPD including the essential annual
Updates, news and resources from the editor of
this newsletter
Geographer, Teacher and Academic. On editorial
board of 'Teaching Geography' and involved in the
GeoCapabilities project:
Author of Ice Ages: a Very Short Introduction
plenty of information on Cold Environments

Case Studies
Encourage students to take case studies further or to look at them critically. Case studies can be
co-constructed by setting up a Google Drive document, to which all students have editing rights.
Populate these templates with some initial information and questions, and provide time for
students to add their ideas and responses to open-ended, un-googleable questions. If students are
asked to use a particular identity, those contributions they have made are recorded, and given a
date and time stamp.
Google Drive is free if you have a Google account, and can be used to
produce editable documents.
If extreme weather is forecast, use the compelling visualisation tool to
explore surface and high-level winds, or extreme temperatures (similar tools such as and the weather site VentuSky which allows
students to map weather and related data for all global locations.
The Royal Geographical Society has made a number of resources available through their
From the Field initiative with The Goldsmiths Company, and continues to add resources to
their website.

Encourage students to read suitable journals and newspapers, most of which (other than a few
with a paywall) have a website and Twitter feed which can be added to a list of suggested
As a school, we have access to digital versions of The Economist: articles are also available online for a short period after publication (@TheEconomist)
The Nelson Thornes journal Geography Review is also essential reading, and has additional digital
materials on their e-Review page: (@GeogReview)
Selected articles from the GAs journal Geography could also be made available to students
subscribers have access to an archive of issues going back over 100 years:
There are also two useful eBooks: one from Paul Turner, which explores a range of useful tools , and one
produced by myself and Richard Allaway on the theme of Extreme Environments, which provides
the basic information that one might need:
Students can create custom-made revision materials using flash cards, or recording a podcast which
can be shared using Audioboo or similar tools. This has recently changed its name to Audioboom: and offers free recordings up to 3 minutes long (long enough to summarise
a case study or process)
Data Skills
One of the changes that have been added to new specifications is a focus on numeracy and data
skills. The Royal Geographical Society have stepped in to provide support for teachers with their
new Data Skills in Geography scheme, which is a two year programme, funded by the Nuffield
It is an integrated programme of work across higher education and schools to support teachers
and students understanding of data skills, confidence in their use, and knowledge of their value to
further study and employment. It will also raise awareness in higher education and schools about
changes in curricula and share the good practice and expertise that exists in both communities.
A series of resources suitable for A level teachers and students has already been created here:
and+thinking+geographically/Data+skills+and+thinking+geographically.htm and more resources,
and some CPD options will be added during 2017, so keep an eye on this resource. There are
lesson resources, ideas for using ArcGIS Online (which should be a tool that all A level students
are introduced to) and a series of articles by academics, which would also be helpful when students
are selecting their possible university pathways.
The Guardians DataStore also offers a range of data-sets with some preliminary analysis and
some big-questions that students can investigate further useful for critical analysis of some big
geographical questions:

Facebook Groups
Several teachers have created Facebook groups for some of the specifications. I produced a list for
the GA website, and selected examples are shown below. Some of these Facebook groups have
associated Schoology groups for resource sharing, and you may have to wait a while for your
membership to be approved.
OCR A Level Geography
AQA A Level Geography
Schoology Group
You will need a free Schoology account
Log in as usual
- Go to the groups tab at the top
- Click join at the bottom
- Copy in the access code & click join
The access code required is KFM9X-X3S29.
Edexcel A Level Facebook Group
Edexcel A Level Geography Ning - started by Alan Parkinson, now run by Jon Wolton and Pearson
over 4500 members
Geography Dropbox
Created by Tony Cassidy and Alan Parkinson - Dropbox 1 - Dropbox 2

Geography through experience

One of the most memorable experiences for many during their whole school career is their
geography fieldtrip. This could be a trip to a Field Studies Council centre, or a black-sand beach in
Iceland, or asking questionnaires on a rainy High Street. The opportunities for social interaction,
and exploring aspects of Geography in detail are important.
There are opportunities for A level students to share their own travels, but also to connect with
other travellers:

Water Diaries charts an expedition made by Fearghal ONuallain which includes a range of
experiences and landscapes. Fearghal has also produced a range of Vimeo videos:
Follow Paul Salopeks Out of Eden walk as a way of exploring global migration and change:
Check the Field Studies Councils own website:

Schools that Work for Everyone

Alan Kinder, Chief Executive Officer, Geographical Association
In December, the Geographical Association (GA) responded
to a government consultation entitled Schools that work for
everyone. This wide-ranging consultation included several
questions about the ways in which biggest and most
successful independent schools could contribute towards the
maintained (state) school system:

Alan Kinder has been CEO of

the GA since 2012. He has
worked as a teacher, head of
department, school leader. LEA
adviser, field studies tutor,
PGCE tutor and consultant in a
variety of locations from
Brighton to South East Asia.
Alan is a long-standing member
of the GA having served on
Committee and was also a
member of the Governing Body
from 2009-12.
Alan advises various bodies
such as OFQUAL and is a
regular contributor to SecEd
the weekly voice of Secondary
Photo: The GA

The GA responded by making some very important points

about the contribution all independent schools, irrespective
of their size, can play in the national subject community. We
highlighted the work of the GAs Independent Schools Special
Interest Group (ISSIG), which provides a conduit for
independent schools to contribute to a national geography
education conversation, via the GAs Education Group
( We
pointed out that many independent schools also support their
local GA Branch (e.g. by hosting Branch events and/or
Worldwise quizzes) or by contributing evidence of their
practice to the GA, in the form of journal articles or through
workshops at GA Annual Conference. A good number of
independent schools have gone further and completed a
Geography Quality Mark submission, meaning the evidence of
their practice is shared around the Geography Quality Mark
community (using a secure Virtual Learning Environment).
We expressed the view that each of these actions is practical,
impactful and demonstrates a commitment to being part of a
national community of practice. These approaches do not
require significant amounts of funding (beyond annual
membership subscriptions to the GA or the fees required for
achieving a Quality Mark award). Rather, the commitment of
time and professional expertise is the more significant aspect.
In the spirit of independence on which the GA was founded,
these are all actions we can get on with now, rather than
waiting for the Department for Education to pronounce on
the ways it thinks independents should support the
maintained sector!

GA Annual Conference 2017, Guildford

In 2017 the GAs Annual Conference will return to the University of Surrey, Guildford, on
Thursday 20 until Saturday 22 April.
Every year the GA welcomes more than 750 delegates from all over the world to take part in a
range of lectures, workshops, field visits and social events and find out about the latest ideas,
resources and support in primary and secondary geography.
The Annual Conference provides an opportunity to meet in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere for
professional and social development through a range of events including:

Lectures from subject specialists

Hands-on workshops for all phases
Teacher-to-Teacher sessions
The UKs largest exhibition of geographical resources
Day-time receptions and evening events.
Get to meet the ISSIG team

The Conference is for delegates of all phases of geographical education, from PGCE and
undergraduate students to classroom and FE teachers and lecturers, heads of department and
coordinators to teacher educators and overseas visitors. The 2017 programme will offer
contemporary teaching ideas from subject experts in more than 100 lectures, workshops, Teacherto-Teacher sessions and field visits.
If you register before 6 January 2017 youll save 11 per day on the standard Conference fees though this date is often extended. Prices start at just 64 and all full-time and PGCE students get
in completely free Book Here
Conference programme
The theme for this years Conference will be Inclusive Geographies?. The 2017 programme will
offer contemporary teaching ideas from subject experts in more than 100 lectures, workshops,
Teacher-to-Teacher sessions and field visits. Read more about the Conference theme.

BBC Weatherman Peter Gibbs will give this years Public Lecture on Antarctica:
Heartbeat of the Planet.
Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography, University of Oxford, on
GCSE Geography and the UK in 2017.
A hands-on workshop from Rachel Adams, geography teacher at Wimbledon High
School on practical ways of making GIS.
Emma Wild, Senior Manager, Standards for Design, Development and Evaluation of
General Qualifications at Ofqual, on the Reformed GCSE and A level geography: the
view from Ofqual.
Simon Catling, Emeritus Professor of Primary Education, Oxford Brookes University,
on Going beyond the box: Refreshing the content of primary geography.
Hands-on workshops providing support for the new GCSE and A level geography
ISSIG will also be presenting 2 sessions - the first on Fieldwork for Changing Places
and the other on Helping our Pupils in their UCAS Geography Applications

Rigour, Skills and Understanding; What Prep School

Geographers need as they move to their Senior Schools.
Paul Baker argues that if Prep Schools are going to provide their pupils with the skills and understanding to allow them to
become responsible citizens and to allow them to take their geographical studies further in their Senior Schools, Prep School
Geography Teachers, need to change, as we enter the Anthropocene, away from their teaching for the exam and allow
pupils to learn the skills and understanding that will help them see geography as an integrated subject with intellectual

Paul Baker is a member of the ISSIG

Committee and formerly a member
of GA Education Group. He was also
a member of the RGS Council and
Education Committee.
Paul taught at several schools
including Rugby and The Dragon in
Oxford. Having retired in 2008, he
ran ISSIG for 8 years and is
Geography Adviser to the IAPS along
with working for Earthwatch (that
featured in the 2015 edition of
Notes and Queries).

It is obvious to me that teachers need to be a knowledge deliverer

but it is very important that pupils possess the skills that will allow
them to take their geography forward to their Senior Schools.
Therefore, knowledge should not be at the expense of many skills
that will be more crucial to their learning. Whatever prep school
Heads and their SMT believe the Common Entrance Examination
is no longer an entry exam. The rise of the Pre-Test at the age of
10/11, the move by some more schools to the Prep School
Baccalaureate, and the special arrangements made by prep
schools with the senior schools about entry requirements has
meant that although CE Geography provides a guideline as a
syllabus it should not be a didactic traditional way of cramming
pupils with knowledge at the expense of wider skills and
understanding of the geography that will be important to the
pupils in the future. The importance for prep school geography
teachers is to make sure that all pupils have been given the chance
to develop a wide range of geographical skills which include all
those listed below:

Fieldwork skills of collecting, presenting, analysing, evaluating

through the writing up in some form an enquiry - in my view
the major benefit to senior schools that has been seen from
the CE fieldwork project over the years.

Data presentation, response, analysis and the ability to

evaluate and understand data. Pupils need to be able to
present and look at data, respond to it and draw geographical
conclusions from the data. Another reason why prep School
Geography teachers need to use more enquiry teaching and
get away from the old didactic approach that was used in the
past. Numeracy and graphical skills are vital developments.

Simple Geographic Information Systems (GIS) must be

included with the more traditional map skills.

News stories/ articles should be used as a resource and

literacy skills as well as geographical skills should be used to
enhance knowledge and understanding of world geographical
issues. For example, over the last year I have observed
teachers of years 7 and 8 in schools providing lessons based
on a news story which has not only excited but also provided
the pupils with a chance to debate and understand the issues.

Paul is a FRGS and Chartered


These have included: Is Britain a Developed Country?, Temperatures in the Arctic rising,
The Refugee issue and migration in Europe, Is HS2 and Crossrail a waste of money? and
The issue of increasing air pollution in China.
All these lessons with mixed ability classes have provided excitement, good learning and
debate but overall relevance to young people who will be living in a world where these
issues will continue to be important. They were all included as part of the Years 6, 7 and 8
CE/scholarship geography teaching.

Skills are very important to all those learning geography and Fieldwork is an essential provider
for these skills. Prep Schools should be finding time to allow their teachers to provide a variety
of Geography fieldwork in the School grounds, the local area and further afield.
Skills that are important for children in their prep school geography curriculum
o Skills to allow synoptic skills to be developed as the Anthropocene speaks to both
physical and human geographers to provide an integrated geography.
o Spatial thinking skills can be developed through the three concepts of space,
representation and reasoning.
o Data collection, presentation, analysis and evaluation.
I believe that these skills above would allow all pupils moving on to their senior schools to
be in a very sound position to take on the wide variety of interesting topics that have been
developed in the senior schools and advance more fully the increasing number of pupils
who see geography as a subject to study at both GCSE, Post 16 and beyond in higher
A geography teacher said to me some years ago Capture the pupils imagination and allow
them to learn through a variety of ways, thus allowing both primary and secondary data
collection to be very important in their knowledge gathering. Get them to develop both
literacy and numeracy skills, read around the subject, debate, analyse, evaluate and reach
conclusions to provide them with a wide mixture of learning opportunities. This still rings
true today!
This of course is reliant on the head teacher and other member of senior management
allowing the teachers the time to not only to teach the geography lessons on the timetable
but to allow time for the pupils to undertake fieldwork to enhance the skills already
mentioned, which are vital for them for future work in their senior schools. As a senior
school head of geography quoted in a recent meeting I would rather read a fieldwork
enquiry from a CE candidate than mark a CE paper where the candidate has been crammed
with factual information with a lack of understanding. I get candidates from feeder schools
who know lots of facts about Plate Tectonics but have very little understanding and the
ability to interpret what it all means.
Fieldwork is essential to geography and it allows the students to gain a greater
understanding of the environment, people and places. It also provides a challenge to the
sedentary, indoor and increasingly online existence of young people. I am not trying to say
that on line learning and communication should be halted but we are all aware of the
increasing so called Nature Deficit Disorder and although geographical fieldwork is not
the only way that this can be reduced it does help. As pupils participate in fieldwork they
begin to bring more understanding to their geography. The value of a mixture of classroom

and outside work cannot be understated and therefore prep school pupils have the ideal
opportunity of developing their geographical skills and understanding while increasing their
knowledge. But the provision of learning outside the classroom also allows pupils to be
engaged, to take possession of their work, to go through self-discovery, to reflect and to
articulate knowledge and understanding. Through writing up their fieldwork they add to
their skills and provide an important development to their geographical learning prior to
moving on to GCSEs and post 16 studies.
In this article, I am appealing to all prep schools to provide a broad and balanced geography
curriculum in years 6 to 8. It is vital that the senior schools they feed get invigorated,
excited and all-round geography pupils who have a good understanding and appreciation of
the world, its geography and issues and a series of skills they can use in their further studies.

Comments on the 2016 Exam Series

In the year that the exam boards published new guidelines to schools regarding remarks, it
appears that there are still many instances of inconsistent marking causing schools to resort
to remarks. The guidelines discouraged many schools from having pupils individual papers
reviewed and in those cases, where pupils marks increased, many schools regretted not
having encouraged more candidates to have their papers remarked.
What has been evident from many schools is that no exam group has been immune from
inconsistent marking. It has been widely reported that very able candidates have been
getting low marks in the initial marking process and after subsequent reviews/remarks have
gained 20 to 30 extra UMS marks. Likewise, many schools have reported that weaker
candidates have been getting much higher than expected marks. There is much anecdotal
evidence of this having been reported.
The general feeling is that the marking this year has been very harsh, particularly at GCSE
level. Schools have reported that on inspection of returned papers to the school or the
electronic marks services (such as Pearsons Results Plus), candidates have tended to be
placed towards the bottom end of grade bands when previously they might have been
placed in the middle or at the top end. Across five or so areas of criteria, this may result
in a mark difference of up to 10 to 15 UMS marks. It was also expressed that the most-able
candidates were not given credit for examples of good geography.
At GCSE level, OCR A seemed to attract most criticism with Edexcel A not far behind as
both boards asking questions that were felt to be too difficult compared with previous
years. As ever, Edexcel IGCSE, attracted a lot of negative comments but Pearson now
seemed to have listened to their customer base at long last and are reforming the exam.
CIE IGCSE attracted less negative comment as many schools appear to migrating this
qualification especially as it provides a better preparation for A level than mainstream
At A level, Edexcel and OCR received most complaints with Edexcels 6GEO4
(Geographical Research) and OCRs F762 (Managing Change in Human Environments)
winning the awards for most criticism by centres. Inconsistent marking, a lack of
professional judgement by examiners and a failure of remarks despite overwhelming
evidence seemed to be the cause of most complaints. In some cases, where schools dealt
with subject officers and/or Principal Examiners, they felt that did not receive the customer

service they deserved having spent a lot of their money on exam board published resources
over the years. This only hastened them jumping to new boards for the new specifications.
Most exam groups played down the inconsistencies in marking standards this year and
wouldnt comment on this, however one board went as far to tell a centre that in two
papers where pupils marks increased significantly were Not marked in accordance with the
mark scheme: An unreasonable exercise of academic judgement.
All exam groups have massive problem with the recruitment and retention of examiners
that one might suggest is a ticking time-bomb. Rates of pay are poor considering the
importance of the job, probably not much more than what a teenager could earn working
in McDonalds when all is considered. This year, the introduction of real- time taxation has
meant that higher band taxpayers in other words, the most experienced teachers and the
very people who should be marking have been taxed at 40% on any marking they have
done. The committee know of several experienced examiners who made the decision not
to mark this year, this included the ISSIG Administrator who had marked for over 30 years.
However, most teachers will say that it is not about the money but about the valuable CPD
and the knowledge and skills required to enhance their students grades. A lack of
confidence in the exam system
Already this academic year, committee members have been bombarded with emails inviting
them to apply to become an examiner by all four major exam groups. Only ONE years
teaching experience was needed to qualify to examine and in addition, there is no
requirement to have taught the specification they were going to examine. When the
Administrator first started to mark in the 1980s, a minimum of three years of experience
teaching the course that was going to examined was needed. There are many retired
teachers who have not taught the specifications they are examining. While there is no
substitute for experience, this also cannot be a good thing.
The recruitment and retention of examiners is a major issue that subject associations like
the Geographical Association should be looking to address as the independent sectors
confidence in the examination system is on the wane. I feel as a subject association we
should be encouraging more committed teachers to mark as well lobbying OFQUAL and
other interested groups.
There is one independent school who has encouraged its staff to examine by giving them a
bonus equal to their examining money would your school support this?
The committee has discussed the problem of exams and the feeling is only likely to be
worse in 2018 when the new courses are examined for the first time. Already, exam boards
seem to conceding ground especially in the assessment of the non-examined assessment.
An interesting point to note is that a large number of committee members schools have
moved to CIE or IB qualifications across the board as their Heads have no wish for their
students to be guinea pigs in 2018.
It is strange that 30 years ago, schools were in a similar position after the rushed
introduction of GCSEs. In 1988, many independent schools received disappointing grades
compared with their previous O Level results. Will history repeat itself?

The Azores: an alternative to Iceland for large groups?

The Azores are a group of 9 volcanic islands are located around
1500km west of Portugal in the mid-Atlantic, where the North
American, Eurasian and African plates meet. The Azores is an
isolated autonomous region of Portugal with dramatic landscapes
that are unspoilt as visitor numbers are still relatively low (although
they are increasing quite rapidly). In January 2016, The Daily
Telegraph described it as Europes answer to Hawaii The islands
have lots of sites where volcanic activity, ecology, renewable energy
and sustainability can be studied, so there are plenty of opportunities
to generate mini case studies for GCSE and A Level.
Alice Mollison has been teaching for 15
years (after a shorter career in advertising),
the last 12 have been at James Allen's Girls'
School, London, where she has been HOD
for 6 years. She became a Chartered
Geographer in 2010 and writes articles for
the Wide World GCSE magazine and
networking with other geographers. Her
favourite topic has always been glaciation
but is becoming more interested in local
urban geography.
She joined the ISSIG Committee in 2016.

James Allens Girls School (JAGS) Geography Department has

offered biennial international trips between 5-8 days long for the last
12 years, to Iceland or Morocco. Having visited Iceland in 2014 with
around 60 girls from Year 11- 13 we would normally have taken a 6
form group back to Morocco for 8 days in October 2016. After the
2014 Iceland trip, Alice decided to consider alternative options as
she had new colleagues in her Department, a young son who was
going to be on his first school half term holiday in 2016 and she
wanted to take Year 11s as well as 6 formers. Alice investigated
destinations that would be suitable to take over 60 girls for 5 days.
With budgetary and time constraints, the Azores stood out

Ponta de Ferreria
A volcanic hot spring
draining into the
Atlantic Ocean.

As far as Alice is aware Discover the World Education are the first and only school specialist
operator organising trips to the Azores so it made sense to use them. In terms of their
administration, JAGS were very impressed, particularly the support from their advisor Sue
Our Itinerary:
Saturday 15th
Sunday 16th

Monday 17th

Tuesday 18th

19th October

05:40 Check in at London Heathrow airport

08:10 Depart on Air Portugal to Lisbon arrive 10:45
13:55 Depart on SATA flight to Ponta Delgada, Azores arrive 15:10
Settle into Youth Hostel in Ponta Delgada and explore Ponta Delgada
Furnas Visitor Centre and Lakeside walk
Cozido lunch: A traditional Azorean meal, slow-cooked in the hot geothermally heated
Terra Nostra Gardens: Visit the botanical gardens and swim in the large geothermal
Furnas Village: Sample different tasting mineral waters straight from the ground
Gorreana Tea Plantation: Sample the teas and learn how the leaves are processed.
Geothermal power plant: A guided talk from the experts working there
Forest trek in the hills above Ribeira Grande: an uphill walk via tracks and a metal
walkway suspended above the river.
Hydroelectric power station: Have a look round an old HEP station
Lago de Fogo: A crater lake atop the central ridge of the island
Caldeira Velha: Bathe at the base of a waterfall in warm volcanic water
Gruta de Carvao: Visit a short section of Sao Miguels longest lava tube
Ponta de Ferraria: Walk around the volcanic cliffs at the western-most point of Sao
Sete Cidades: Walk around the green and blue crater lakes and walk part way down an
unlit tunnel through the crater rim that ends up at the sea. Swim in the lake.
Explore Ponta Delgada
12:05 Check in at Ponta Delgada airport
13:50 Depart on TAP flight to Lisbon, arrive 17:00
19:05 Depart on Air Portugal to Heathrow arrive 21:45

Note: Due to our large group size and time of year, JAGS chose the standard Sao Miguel
itinerary but there is obviously plenty of scope to adapt this to the needs of your school. For
smaller groups, you could add whale watching and visit other islands.
There were also other disadvantages to taking such a large group. With a smaller group, it is
possible to catch direct flights to the Azores Ryanair, for example fly to Ponta Delgada from
Stansted and Azores Airlines from Gatwick. Staying in youth hostel rather than hotel meant that
the standard of rooms and food was disappointing. The party needed to split into two separate
groups to visit some sites as places like Gruta do Carvao were clearly not yet used to school
groups. This proved to be a logistical headache and was unpopular amongst the pupils.

Student perspective by a Year 11

student, Zoe.
Even in mid-October, the moment I stepped off the
plane I was surprised by the autumnal heat; not
only are the Azores desirable for their wonders of
nature but for the annual temperatures that drop
no lower than 15, even in the Winter. In the five
days, we spent on the island, we saw a great
amount; from exquisite botanical gardens to
sustainable power plants to magnificent views over
volcanic craters. I speak for myself and countless
others when I say that this was definitely the best
trip I have ever been on. While I cannot pick an
activity that was my favourite, I can tell you what I
found most fascinating: the 2 hour trek; up forest
trails, past a hidden, awe-inspiring waterfall, across
a nerve-racking, suspended walkway, through a
fascinating hydroelectric power plant and over
rolling hills back towards the coast, was wonderful
and made for some great photo opportunities that
involved trying very hard not to fall into the water,
the delightfully warm, orange, iron rich thermal
baths filled with 'magical healing powers, and the
impressive Gruta de Carvao caves that formed over
5000 years due to numerous volcanic eruptions.
Despite running for over 5km we could sadly only
explore a small section but these caves were
undoubtedly intriguing. However, these were
nothing compared to the crater-lakes we visited.
'Lago do Fogo' is considered one of the most
beautiful lakes in the Azores; as the only wild lake
remaining, it is a nature reserve surrounded by
forests and wildlife. The beautifully clear Fogo Lake
is a crater filled with water within a stratovolcano
and is one of only three. 'Sete Cidades' is one of the
seven wonders of Portugal with a wondrous myth
behind the enchanting two-toned lake. One lake is
blue, being wider and deeper; it reflects the blue of
the sky above, and the other green, shallower it
reflects the encompassing vegetation. This once in
a lifetime trip was extremely enjoyable for all, but
it was not solely leisure based. As someone who
wishes to go on to study Earth Science at University,
I found this trip highly interesting and greatly
beneficial; and if the opportunity were to rise again,
in the years to come, Id definitely tell anyone that
it'd be a decision you would never regret.

The Gruta de Carvao caves

Caldeira Velha another hot spring!

From a teachers perspective, Alice doesnt think the Azores has the wow factor of Iceland or Morocco,
but would definitely recommend it for larger groups. After all, it was a great trip with lots of contrasting
things to see and learn about.

ISSIG Enters the Tourism Business

At the end of October, two members of the ISSIG Committee and two other teachers from the
independent sector along with another teacher/driver rendezvoused at Stansted Airport early on
a Sunday morning to board a plane to Perugia in Umbria in Italy to do some reconnaissance for
possible future field trips.
As it happened while we sat eating an early breakfast in the departures lounge, this region of Italy
received its biggest earthquake in over 35 years that scuppered some of our plans, but gave us the
opportunity to experience life in a disaster zone.
We were due to stay at the Villa Camp Verde (pictured on right), a
17th Century building in the village of Eggi, close to the town of
Spoleto. The 6.5 magnitude earthquake, following two smaller
tremors four days earlier caused some damage at the villa making
our attempt to stay there futile as the caretaker deemed it unsafe
for us to sleep there. The villa was refurbished in the early 2000s and
was partially rebuilt to make it aseismic, however a building surveyor
needed to give it a clean bill of health before we could stay.
The Villa is owned by some retired independent school teachers
from the Oxford area, who use it as a holiday home and as a business.
It can sleep up to 25 people and is ideal for small/medium sized
school groups for field work, with its 10 rooms, 9 bathrooms,
various lounges and large kitchen and dining room. Further details
can be obtained direct from Paul Baker.
Having hastily re-arranged our accommodation some 40km away, we were still able to explore the
area and spent 3 days looking at the impacts of the earthquake in places such as Assisi, Spoleto and
Norcia that had been worse hit of the locations we visited.
We spent some time looking at the theme Changing Places using the term Palimpsest (ancient
text overlaid by more recent text) to look at the chosen settlements to discover a sense of place
but also to look at changes through the development of layers but also connections. The historical
background and the connections between past and present are obvious themes and moving from
Assisi in the morning to Montefalcao in the evening via Bevanga, we developed a sense of how
every place has retained its own unique set of historical and religious characteristics but has also
through time changed to provide a modern urban environment catering for the local population
of the 21st Century and the tourists who flock to Umbria each year. Connections between past
and present were obvious as was the change to allow the economic development of the area.
We looked at important aspects that students could develop for their personal input to their
Fieldwork enquiry for the A Level project. Using ones geographical eye to unravel the geography
opportunities and looking through the lens of a camera we observed how students could develop
a very personal sense of place. The experience and the immersion into these historical settlements,
to collect primary data, but also to reflect on the development of a modern economic settlement
through the changes that have taken place, allowing modern day living, legacies of the past (including
the culture) of these place, to be observed, recorded and developed as a primary source which

then can be supplemented with secondary data will we believe will allow A Level geographers to
meet the criteria for the new A Level projects.
To experience a settlement and immerse oneself in this place allows the pupils to develop their
own personal responses to the landscape and allow a much better understanding of the places as
Marvell and Simms article puts it we unraveled the palimpsest.

A crumbled portion of the city wall at Norcia

(Photo: Phil Pitcher)

Our visit to Norcia was the most poignant of

the trip. The ancient walled city had been
destroyed by the previous Sundays quake and
had been cordoned off by the emergency
authorities. Around the walls, vans belonging to
the worlds media were waiting for the next
rescue, people made homeless sat around in
parks waiting for news and members of various
rescue services stood around smoking, drinking
coffee and chatting. No area of the city seemed
to be unaffected, new buildings as well as old
had collapsed. The tourist car park close to the
walled city had been requisitioned as the
command centre, while helicopters buzzed
away overhead. Close by a new row of shops had
been badly damaged.

While our trip was not as successful as it might

have been, it did provide us with useful information and we are looking to repeat this particular
trip at some stage for more teachers. It is worth noting for those with a nervous disposition that
Iceland is far more tectonically active than this area of Italy.
ISSIG are looking to run future trips to
explore other locations for fieldwork
notably Morocco and Poland that are both
very accessible from British airports at
reasonable prices. Further details will be in
the April Newsletter.
Ryanair fly from Stansted to Perugia 3 times
a week during winter months and 6 times a
week during the summer. Our flights in
October/November were less than 40
return. However, the region is only 75 miles
from Rome if flying from other areas of the

Damaged new shop units at Norcia (Photo: Rob


Further reading: Unravelling the geographical palimpsest through fieldwork: discovering a sense
of place Alan Marvell and David Simm (Geography Autumn 2016)

GA ISSIG Calendar of Events 2017

Thursday April 20th - Saturday 22nd 2017 - GA Annual Conference, Surrey
University, Guildford
Further details
Committee Meeting at Annual Conference
The committee will meet for a brief meeting while at conference.
Monday June 26th 2017 ISSIG Northern/Midlands Conference - Repton School,
Wednesday June 28th ISSIG Southern Conference -Charterhouse, Godalming,
This year will see an expansion of the ISSIG Conferences that replaced the Oxford Conference. A
new conference will augment the existing conference at Charterhouse with a similar programme
and be held in a school in the North Midlands to allow easier access for all schools in the North
and Midland regions. Programmes for both conferences will be identical and will be available to
book via the Geographical Association website soon. It is hoped that we will have speakers talking
about the use of GIS in the non-examined assessment, Water and Carbon cycles, Global
Governance and Changing Places at both conferences.
Further details will go out to schools after half term in February.

Further information about the Geographical Associations Independent Schools

Special Interest Group can be found at
The Twitter feed is @GA_ISSIG
The deadline for submission for articles for the next edition of Notes and Queries
published in April will be 10th April 2017.
Submissions should be sent to